The Humble Burger - What's Your Fave?
The recent favourite sandwich thread got me thinking about the hundreds (thousands?!) of variations on the simple burger. Look at all the elements we have to play with, from the inside out:
Meat - buy it ground, or grind your own? Blade, chuck, sirloin? Do you add pork or poultry?
And how do you cook - rare or well done? Fried or grilled? Charred or not? Do you add spices before cooking (garlic, pepper, salt, or ??)?
Cheese - Yes or no? Grated or sliced? Cheddar, provolone, swiss, mozzarella, or (gasp) "wrap"?
Tomato - Sliced or chopped? And since in Toronto, good fresh tomatoes will be a memory until next June, ketchup often fills in for half the year.
Onion - Raw or cooked? Bermuda, Spanish, Vidalia? If cooked - grilled or sauteed? Butter or olive oil? If raw - sliced or chopped?
Lettuce - What type? Leaves or chopped? And is the Quebec addition of a sweet coleslaw unique to La Belle province, or is it done elsewhere?
Other veg/fruit - what else? Avocado? Pineapple? Roasted peppers? Or....?
Pickles - sweet or dill?Long slices or chips?
Condiments - Mustard (yellow, brown, dijon, grainy, ??), relish (pickle, zucchini, other?), other sauces (BBQ, ketchup, mayo), horseradish, hot sauce??
Finally - the bun. Do you like the soft, chewy "wonder" style bun served at most FF places, or do you prefer something crustier, like a kaiser or a Calabrese roll? Plain or toasted or put face down on the griddle/fry pan?
I'm sure I've forgotten many different toppings (geez, chili just came to me - how could I have forgotten that?!), so clue me in - I'd be delighted to hear some new ideas!
Homemade: High quality fatty ground beef (about 75 to 80% lean). Mash out a huge patty by hand. Let it warm to room temperature. Build a hot hot fire with dry hickory and white oak. When the wood is down to white hot coals, lay a grid over it and cook the burger fast on both sides (should be charred a little, but medium). Bun, a toasted chewy pizza-crust style. Sliced onion (Vidalia or mild Spanish), home-grown tomato, good leaf lettuce, bread and butter pickle, good slice of Colby starting to melt. Healthy dollop of Marzetti's slaw dressing.
ground chuck from my butcher shop seasoned with pepper, terryaki, and garlic powder , Cooked somewhere between rare and medium rare over lump charcoal & wood(hickory or mesquite) on my grill.
Served on a toasted Kaiser roll witha slice of Swiss or mozzarella, bacon, mayo, ketchup, dill pickle slices, a fried egg, romaine lettuce leaf, raw red onion, avocado, and tomato.
I saw this on a Sara Moulton show...some chef went around the country tasting burgers and this was his favorite simple burger. Fatty ground beef (75%?) thrown into a cast iron skillet (not shaped, mind you, free form) salt and peppered. Flatten with spatula. Before you flip, place a few rounds of sliced yellow onion, so they grill into the otherside. Salt and pepper the other side. Take an untoasted hamburger bun and spread jarred pimento cheese on both sides. Add burger and eat. Sounded gross...but had to give it a shot. Soooo good. And cheap and simple. Bon Apetit.
Swear to heaven, the best burger I've ever had was a preformed packaged Steakburger from Trader Joe's, cooked by me in my iron grill pan and served on a barely-toasted ciabatta bun, also from TJ's. I expected good; I did not expect transcendental. I did take care to season the patties an hour before I cooked them, and let them sit out for an hour with a towel draped over to keep the bugs off. I do not know the exact cuts used in these, but if I ate or cooked burgers more often I would be hard-pressed to try anything else.
As I recall, the burger had a slice of sharp cheddar on it, and mine was dressed with lettuce, onion, wasabi mayonnaise and Dijon mustard, the last two also being TJ's items.
You've forgotten a key element of the burger making process -- the order in which the burger is filled. One of the guys in my Toastmasters club made a 6 minute speech about the necessity of building a burger in the right order, and I couldn't agree with him more.
As much as what condiments you use, where you put them matters. Some condiments (mustard, relish, etc) serve to enhance the meat on your burger and need to be next to the patty. Some condiments serve to enhance the vegetables and other toppings, and need to be up on top near the vegetables. Few things cause me more momentary irritation than watching the counter person spread mustard all over the lettuce on a burger. So very, very, very wrong!
I feel the same way about sandwiches.
People at choose your own topping burger and sandwich places probably hate me.
I never thought of adding process to the mix! I must admit I usually use a thick Calabrese bun, cut in half, and toasted, but before I toast the bottom, I hollow it out a bit. That makes a pocket where I put all the "wet" ingredients - mustard, relish, ketchup (if no tomatoes), etc. This keeps them from spilling out the sides when I dive in! Cheese obviously goes on top of the patty, then the veggies: lettuce, tomato, onion, and whatever else I have handy.